November 2019, and our first work experience trip to Hamburg had just returned. The trip had been a great success and at Blue Stamp Travel we were looking forward to more trips in 2020. Yet that was not to be. The global travel restrictions and associated uncertainty caused by the pandemic meant that it would not be until 2022 that we could return to ‘The Venice of the North’. That group reported great experiences with established and trusted partners, but it was clear for future trips we would need to expand our network in Hamburg in order to meet rising demand among young linguists for work experience abroad.
It is great to be reconnecting with our partners across Hamburg!
Over the course of four incredibly hot days in August, Steve Manderson, Managing Director of Blue Stamp Travel, and I, walked over 60km around Hamburg, meeting dozens of business owners and managers across sectors ranging from five-star hotels to vegan bakeries and specialist dealers in ultra-rare and ultra-expensive guitars. What all these new partners had in common was the passion for giving young people opportunities, particularly in terms of developing those language skills that can only be acquired by spending time abroad.
Although I had conducted countless phone conversations and email exchanges with businesses in Hamburg, this was my first visit to the city. It was immediately apparent what makes Hamburg such a great location for our work experience abroad programme: it is a big city of nearly 2 million people, but it remains compact and very easily accessed by the excellent public transport system. It is also fascinatingly varied, the grand 5-star hotels glittering around the Binnenalster only a few minutes’ walk from the trendy, independent cafes and shops decked out in pride flags along Lange Reihe. We enjoyed meeting business owners in the more residential district of Altona, where old factories have been transformed into business centres that are home to TV studios, advertising agencies and design studios.
For any visitor to Hamburg now, it is clear this is a city undergoing a transformation. Trade and commerce still run through the very veins of the city – it’s amazing to stand beneath the soaring new Elbphilharmonie concert hall and look across to the huge container ships being unloaded at the port. But the city is acquiring new dimensions, more multicultural, diverse and youth-oriented, with new industries springing up to fill spaces left by older industries.
During our four-day visit to Hamburg, Steve and I covered nearly 40 miles in 30° temperatures and high humidity. Nevertheless, it was always a delight to meet established partners who have supported our work experience abroad programme despite the challenges of the pandemic. We were always impressed by the warmth and care shown by our partners who want the work experience students they accept to get the very most from their visits to Hamburg. Some previous students have even stayed in touch with former placement providers, showing how these short trips can forge links that will last for years.
The new partners we met in Hamburg will greatly enhance the placements we can offer in Hamburg and I’m excited to build up the partnerships that are key to the success of our work. The relationships we have with our placement providers mean we can match students to placements where we feel confident that they will have a rewarding, challenging and fulfilling experience.